Why super talented entrepreneurs fail to scale

Through the numerous founder- and management team assessments HH&P Executive Search has conducted on startups and scaleups, we have identified a common denominator in the different founding teams’ strong focus on execution, i.e. their high capacity to “get things done”. We don’t expect this to come as a surprise to anyone, since it is very logical. Most people that start companies from scratch, or join them at a very early stage, do so because they are motivated by doing things themselves. Those who, on the contrary, thrive when leading others are more likely to join larger companies with some people and teams to lead.

In the early stages of a business the lack of people-orientation in the core team is seldom noticeable, since strong task-orientation quite often is a prerequisite for survival. But what happens when the company starts growing to consist of more people than just its founding team? Well, demands on leadership, direction and individual development become increasingly important. Not least to ensure that the employees develop as rapidly as the business. In other words, as a company grows, the leadership approach, processes and structures need to be adapted. Strongly task-oriented people, the ones that usually have made the company successful in its early phases, commonly underestimate the need for such adaptation, which in turn leads to organizational growth pains and ultimately to unrealized potential in the company being lost.

HH&P Executive Search assists companies in identifying if the management team lacks either people-orientation or task-orientation for current and future growth phases. We also assist in identifying how/if the composition of task- and people-orientated individuals can become a problem to the company and how to mitigate such related problems. As a start, you, as the (probably task-oriented) core team of a startup or scaleup, should ask yourselves the following questions:

  • At what point in our company’s journey will the organization require strong leadership and formal people management skills, that can ensure direction, collaboration and individual development?
  • Is anyone in the core team genuinely driven by leading and developing others? By creating optimal conditions for others to succeed and collaborate in as opposed to getting things done by her/himself?
  • Does the team possess actual skills and potential related to leading and developing the organization and its employees? If not, how can we ensure a balance between task-orientation and people-orientation in our company’s growth journey?

If you find these questions difficult to answer, give us a call!